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Slow start sinks Lady Jays

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Needville swept by Celina in 4A state semifinals

GARLAND — The Needville volleyball team had the state experience compared to Celina. Still, it didn't impact Thursday's 2021 UIL Class 4A Volleyball State Semifinals match at the Culwell Center in Garland.

The Lady Bobcats pressed the action early in each of the three sets and didn't allow Needville to get a firm hold in the match.

In the end, Lady Jays were swept, 25-23, 25-18, 25-17.

"We just came out flat, and they did not," Needville head coach Amy Schultz said. "We couldn't keep up with them."

There is no second chance at state, and the Lady Jays felt they let one slip away with a slow start.

"I may have seen us only once come out (and play) like that," Schultz said. "Most of the time, it's in Set 2, but I've never seen us do it multiple times.

"I don't know the reason (why that happened) besides nerves."

Celina didn't waste any time grabbing a lead in the opening set, and the Lady Bobcats led 6-0 before Needville could blink. Celina had kills from Lexi Manning and Aubrey Lambert, and Needville had two errors to create the early hole.

Alyssa Edwards got Needville on track with a kill and ace to make it 6-2, but Celina scored 7 of the next nine points to lead 13-3.

Needville's only point during the run was from an attacking error by Celina. The Lady Bobcats used kills from Manning, Ryan McCoy and Lambert to build a double-digit lead, on top of two errors from Needville.

The Lady Jays found their first spark of life at that point; Needville scored five of the following six points.

Cayla Kozik scored her first kill to make it 14-5 before Edwards scored a point and Kinsey Murray recorded an ace.

A kill from Dogget and a Celina error made it a four-point margin, 16-12.

Edwards and Kozik made it a three-point lead with kills to set the score at 17-14.

A pair of Celina errors and Kozik kills tied the opening set at 18.

Needville even took the lead in the opening set after trailing by double-digits with a kill from Maya Scott to make it 19-18.

Coach Schultz saw a moment of normalcy while the team clawed back in the opening set.

"When you play good defense, we're usually really good," Schultz said. "When we're in our system, we do a great job.

"We just couldn't get it going today."

Celina grabbed the lead back multiple times down the stretch after a kill from Edwards and an ace from Kozik. The match was tied at 23 before a kill from Payton Grubbs and Lexi Manning to spoil the Needville rally.

Celina led 1-0, and the Lady Jays were left wondering what could have been if Needville had completed the comeback.

"We came back and fought (in the first set); if we had that one, I think it would have been a different outcome," Schultz said.

For the second-straight set, Celina led 6-0. The Lady Jays wouldn't let Celina build a double-digit lead, but Needville wouldn't score its first offensive point until it was 10-3. Kozik scored first, and points from Edwards and Fojtik made it 11-5 in favor of Celina.

A string of errors by the Lady Bobcats and kills from Edwards, Doggett and Kozik made it a one-point game in Set 2.

A Scott Kill kept the tight margin at 16-15, but it would be the closest Needville got in Set 2.

Celina scored three straight to lead 19-15 forcing a Needville timeout.

Edwards broke the Celina run with a kill to make it 21-17, and Kozik added another kill to make it 23-18.

The Lady Bobcats secured a 2-0 lead with a 25-18 win in Set 2.

Needville wasn't shut out to start that third set; Celina had a ball-handling error to open the scoring. Unfortunately for the Lady Jays, Celina scored the next six points.

The Lady Bobcats got kills from McCoy and aces from Murray to go on the early run.

Needville wouldn't score its first offensive point until it was 9-5 Celina with a kill from Fojtik. The Lady Jays got a spark from the score, and Needville scored the following four points, including kills from Scott and Fojtik along with an ace from Kozik.

Celina took a timeout down 11-9 following two errors by the Lady Bobcats.

Edwards scored to make it 12-10, but Celina scored the next seven points.

The Lady Bobcats got multiple kills from Manning and Hodges.

Needville was outscored 8 to 5 down the stretch, and the Lady Jays final kills came from Edwards and Scott.

Celina won the third set on a block from Hodges and Ashely Woodrum.

Needville had only six kills in the final set against seven errors.

Edwards led the Lady Jays in kills with 10 followed by Kozik with eight, Fojtik with five and Scott with four.

Brooke Blackard had 16 assists, and Fojtik added 11. Kozik had two aces. Edwards led the team in digs with 19, Fojtik added 13 and Skylar Butler had 10. Ocho had five block assists, while Doggett and Scott each had three.

Manning led Celina with 14 kills and Hodges with 10 kills.

Needville finishes its season with a 33-13 record overall after earning the program's 11th trip to the state tournament. Celina (42-1) advances to play Decatur (37-8) on Saturday in the state finals, who beat Bellville in three sets.

"It's been an amazing journey," Schultz said. "(We) weren't looked at by anybody, and we fought all year long. This group came together from how we started to how we ended it. I know this wasn't a great ending, but I would have never expected the girls to go as far as they did.

"When they play (well), they are really good. We just didn't play that way today. They are a great group."

Ryan Dunsmore, Sports Editor

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